Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he is ready to step down from his position but there is no one suitable to replace him.
Netanyahu allegedly made the statement to former senior legal official a few months ago, saying that: “I am ready to leave my position tomorrow as prime minister, but I have no one to leave the keys with.”
His comments were reported by Israel’s Channel 10 yesterday and confirmed by the legal official to whom he spoke. However a source from the ruling Likud party – of which Netanyahu is the leader – disputed the comments, saying “these words were never said. I suggest that no one take this report seriously,” the Jerusalem Post reported.
Yet speaking in Paris while attending the World War I centenary memorial this weekend Netanyahu showed no intention of resigning, instead telling reporters “the most outrageous accusations are being thrown at me but apparently it’s not working. I’m not going anywhere. Get used to it. It’s up to the public to decide”.
Both of Netanyahu’s comments will be seen in light of the ongoing corruption charges against him and members of his inner circle. Last week Israel’s police said that it had found sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu’s lawyer and a number of his confidants in what has become known as Case 3000. The case refers to allegations of a $2 billion purchase of submarines from German firm ThyssenKryupp, in which Netanyahu’s lawyer and cousin – David Shimron – is suspected of lobbying defence officials while standing to personally profit from the deal.
Although Netanyahu is not personally under investigation in Case 3000, he faces charges of corruption and bribery in three other cases known as Case 1000, 2000 and 4000 respectively. In October Netanyahu was questioned for the 12th time in relation to cases 1000 and 2000, the first time since his former confidant Nir Hefetz turned state’s witness and agreed to assist the Israeli police with their investigations.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu stands accused of accepting lavish gifts from two influential businessmen in return for favourable legislation and personal favours. In Case 2000, Netanyahu is being investigated for promising Arnon Mozes – the owner of Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aronoth – that he would curtail the circulation of Israel Hayom, Mozes’ main competitor publication, in return for favourable coverage of him and his policies.
Hefetz has also given evidence against Netanyahu in Case 4000 – sometimes known as the Bezeq case – in which Netanyahu allegedly provided regulatory benefits to Shaul Elovitch, the owner of telecom giant Bezeq, in return for favourable coverage on Elovitch’s Walla news site. Due to the similarities between the three cases, Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit decided earlier this year to unite the three probes.
For his part, Netanyahu has vehemently denied the allegations, in October calling the investigations “boneless”. A statement from the PM’s office issued shortly after the 12th round of interrogations stated that: “It’s entirely clear that the investigations of the prime minister are not only meatless — they are boneless,” adding “the prime minister responded to all of the questions he was asked with full confidence, fully aware that nothing happened and therefore nothing will happen”.
However, members of Israel’s political establishments have called for Netanyahu to step down if the cases result in indictment. Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said in October that Netanyahu could not remain in office in this event, threatening to pull his Kulanu party out of the governing coalition were the prime minister to be indicted.